Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Think About It

Some thoughts to guide us:
  1. With the first Christian community practicing their faith as a minority religion, can Christians today do the same as a majority?
  2. How has the notion of empire and colonialism shaped evangelism?
  3. How does one go about a theology of money and/or capitalism?
  4. What is the church’s relationship to the state and vice versa?
  5. What role should one’s faith play when campaigning for political office?
  6. How has our understanding of democracy shaped church polity?
  7. What if the American Revolution, with its believed divine inspiration, had failed?
  8. How does one navigate the often blurry line between church and state when it comes to social programming?
  9. Is America a “Christian nation”?
  10. How does one live missionally and prophetically in today’s America?

God and Country (Again)

The following is Matt's letter on "God and Country". The link in the post below is going dead later today so disregard it.

"God & Country"

This coming Sunday (February 5th) our church will recognize scout Sunday. This is a tradition that we have taken up in the past few years as a way of recognizing the role scouting has played and continues to play in the formation of many of our young people. Among the many virtues scouting promotes is the importance of faith in God. And so it is appropriate that we set aside a Sunday to acknowledge the relationship this family of faith has long had with the various scouting traditions: Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies and others.

I confess this has presented something of a challenge for me. The challenge comes not from what scouts represent, their program, or values. It is quite clear that scouting has had a tremendous and positive impact on the young men and women who participate in it as well as the adults who lead them. No, the challenge comes when our national flag is processed in the context of Sunday worship and the pledge to that flag is recited.

I consider myself a fairly patriotic individual. I value the democratic freedoms on which the United States is founded; particularly the first amendment freedom of expression and the establishment clause that allows us to practice our religious beliefs free of government intrusion or interference. At sporting events I regularly choke up at the singing of the national anthem. I understand the value of the pledge of allegiance as a means of teaching the importance of citizenship.
All that said, Sunday worship is a time that we gather first and foremost as citizens of the Kingdom of God to raise our voices in praise to the one to whom we owe our ultimate allegiance. That Kingdom is one not bounded by national borders, but includes the people of every tribe and nation. What makes me uncomfortable is pledging our allegiance to anything other than God during that time we have set aside specifically to worship God. It may be a poor analogy but I would liken it to making a date with someone, showing up and then talking about someone else. Often when God speaks through the prophets about his relationship with the people it is as a “jealous God”.

As much as I value our flag and the nation that it represents, the primary symbols for Sunday morning are the font -where the waters of baptism remind us of our identity as those who belong to God through Jesus Christ- and the table- where we are invited from east and west, north and south to be fed as one people. I believe this is who we are truly called to be, before nation or party or any other factional identity.

That is the reason why I initially asked that the pledge not said when the scouts processed at church, because I am cautious about confusing or diluting our worship.

As your pastor I am in essence the theologian in residence, and felt I needed to share my thoughts on this with you on why I had suggested that we refrain from saying the pledge on Sunday. I have been asked to reconsider my position in deference to those for whom the procession and pledge are meaningful. In the spirit of practicing what I preached this past Sunday (January 29th) I feel I ought to yield to the love and respect I hold for our scouts, their families and those who value this tradition. Perhaps together we can continue to discern the ways our faith leads us to serve Christ as well as our country.

Jerusalem or Babylon?

This is my first post so I sort of feel I’m intruding. I have only been able to make one meeting (so far) due to schedule conflicts. I deeply regret having a conflict this Thursday because this is an HUGE issue for me right now. I’ve just begun a DMin program and the readings we have been assigned are really good. One book I discovered in this process is William Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land. (Link) The book was first published in 1973 and has been recently reprinted (2004). I offer the following passage as fodder for the conversation:

“The elemental truth of Babylon’s apocalyptic situation is Babylon’s radical confusion concerning her own identity and, in turn, her relationship to Jerusalem. The awful ambiguity of Babylon’s fallenness is expressed consummately in Babylon’s delusion that she is, or is becoming, Jerusalem. This is the same moral confusion which all principalities suffer in one way or another; this is the vocational crisis, really, which every nation in history endures. This is the vanity of every principality—and notably for a nation—that the principality is sovereign in history; which is to say, that it presumes it is the power in relation to which the moral significance of everything and everyone else is determined. Babylon’s famous wantonness, Babylon’s decadence, Babylon’s profligacy has only most superficially to do with materialism, lust, or the decline of moral values, and Babylon’s fall is not particularly a punishment for her greed or vice or aggrandizement, despite what some preachers allege. Babylon’s futility is her idolatry—her boast of justifying significance or moral ultimacy in her destiny, her reputation, her capabilities, her authority, her glory as a nation. The moral pretenses of Imperial Rome, the millennial claims of Nazism, the arrogance of Marxist dogma, the anxious insistence that America be “number one” among nations are all versions of Babylon’s idolatry. All share in this grandiose view of the nation by which the principality assumes the place of God in the world. In the doom of Babylon by the judgment of God this view is confounded and exposed, exhausted and extinguished. A magnificent celebration in heaven extols the triumph of God’s sovereignty over principalities as well as human beings (Rev. 18:20; 19:1-2).”—Stringfellow, p. 51

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

God and Country

As we prepare to discuss the connections between faith and national citizenship, I thought I'd post the reflection I offered in my context regarding "Scout Sunday". The sermon alluded to at the end emphasized the priority of love over "being right". Offered to get the conversation started perhaps.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Resources on Truth

Hey everybody,
Great conversation today! Thank you all for it.

Here are two more resources regarding truth. The first is Jim’s article that he read from by William Placher. The second is a short sermon by Paul Tillich about the “doing the truth”. This is some of the stuff I was referencing about the practice of truth. Add more at your discretion.


Is the Bible True? by William C. Placher

Doing the Truth by Paul Tillich from The Shaking of the Foundations

Post Restoration Podcast

Hi all.

Once again, I apologize for missing the last half hour of the conversation today. One day I'll be able to stay for an entire meeting.

I did want to let you all know of a podcast that a buddy of mine and I have started doing called the Post Restoration Podcast. It's a couple of Church of Christ guys talking about a lot of the things that we've been talking about at the Cohort. It's really rough, but of course, we'd like people to listen and add their thoughts to the conversation.



Wednesday, February 01, 2006

why is "truth"--or the lack thereof--so scary?

"Brian McLaren scares me. It isn't his ambiguity on the question of [you name it] that worries me so much as it is his reckless passion for ambiguity in the first place, and his utter fear that someone, anyone, will take offense for any reason; the larger disease of which the first is a symptom."
i hereby post this comment from a blog...and i post it out of context. but it seems to speak to one of the things about "truth" that i find interesting. why is it that "truth," or perhaps "uncertainty about truth" (maybe those are two completely different things), is such a scary thing. why are we so afraid of those who claim to know it? and why are we so afraid of those who claim not to know it?